When Pamela Addison’s husband died from Covid-19 last April at age 44, she felt completely alone. She didn’t know anyone her age who’d lost someone to Covid, and she hadn’t seen stories about people as young as her husband, Martin, dying from the virus.
That was, at least, until she opened a sympathy card from a woman she had never met.
“You are not alone,” the card began.
“And at that moment, the weight of feeling alone was lifted, because now there was someone else who understood,” Addison told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
The note was from Kristina Scorpo, a New Jersey mother of two young boys who lost her own husband, Frank, to Covid weeks earlier. Frank, a police officer who had just achieved his dream of becoming a motorcycle cop, was just 34.
After Frank died, Kristina received a similar letter from an acquaintance who was also a widow. Inside was a blank card. The woman asked that when Kristina was ready, she send a similar note to someone else who needed comfort – even if she didn’t know them.
Scorpo read about Addison’s loss on Facebook and realized they had children of similar ages and didn’t live far from one another. Addison’s son, Graeme, is 1 and her daughter, Elsie, is 2 1/2. Scorpo’s sons, Francesco and Santino, are 5 and 1 1/2.
“So I took the card out of the drawer and I said, ‘That’s it. I’m going to sit at the kitchen table, right where I’m at, and I’m going to write the card and I’m going to send it to her because she knows exactly how I feel and I know exactly how she feels.’”
It turned out, she was right. The two soon started speaking on the phone.
“Every time I needed someone who understood what I was going through, I would check in with her, see how she was doing, too,” Addison said. “And she gave me some hope, because she’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m having a really good day.’ So if I was having a bad day, (I’d think), ‘OK, good days are ahead of me.’”
Addison said she wanted to return the favor and write letters to other young Covid widows and widowers, but she was overwhelmed by the number of other young adults who had lost spouses. Then it dawned on her: Why not start a Facebook group where they could all comfort each other and create a community?
That was the start of the “Young Widows and Widowers of Covid-19” group on Facebook. Addison asked Scorpo to be an administrator of the group with her, and they soon had dozens of members. Today, there are 209 widows and widowers in the group – all members of a club that no one wanted to be a part of.
Diana Ordonez soon joined them. She lost her husband, Juan – a man she calls the other half of her soul – when he was just 40. Their daughter, Mia, is 5.
Ordonez downsized after her husband died, moving to an apartment in Waldwick, New Jersey – the same town as Addison. Ordonez found the Facebook group through Addison’s posting in the town’s moms Facebook group.
“It’s nine months later and it’s still hard, because (when) something good happens … there’s this empty silence where his words would once be,” Ordonez said.
For her daughter, Mia, it has meant sleepless nights with the fear she may lose her mother, too. Juan was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night and never returned.
Addison and Ordonez now text each other most days. They have formed a much-needed support system among women who actually understand what they’re going through, and they no longer feel so alone.
The grieving process has made more difficult because of the social isolation required by the continuing pandemic.
“After they pass, you can’t be around anybody, right? And now you have to be alone,” Ordonez said. That made the Facebook group all the more meaningful.
Whitney Parker found the group at the start of the new year, after she set a resolution to focus on healing in 2021. Her husband, Leslie Lamar Parker, died from Covid-19 and left behind the couple’s two children: Zuri, now 9, and Chance, who turned 1 just days after his father died.
“The group is better than any therapy session I’ve ever had,” Parker said.
The group is especially helpful, she said, because it’s focused on young adults who died from Covid – a smaller group of victims, though larger than originally thought.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8,474 adults between 25 and 44 have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began.
“When you lose someone that’s so important to your everyday life, you’re just like, why?” Parker said. “Why did this happen? He had so much more life, so much more time.”
It’s a common refrain among these women, grappling with the idea of the rest of their lives without their partners – the fathers of their children.
“I know that Martin would want me to be happy and live my life,” Addison told the other women. “I think about that every day with the kids. And when we’re doing something, I will just remember that this is what he wanted. If they’re running in the huge yard that our house has, that was what he envisioned when we bought this house … and that gives me happiness because it’s coming true, but of course, that’s also heartbreaking.”
It’s a bond that was formed in an unlikely way. For now, the women comfort each other through the screens of their computers as they wait for the day they can hug each other in person.
“At least our kids have each other one day,” Addison said. “So that’s a nice bonus from this: knowing that (our) kids are going to meet. … They’ll have each other there and they’ll understand exactly what they went through.”